Spring is the time of year when more people are contacting us to get ready for some summer events or activities in open water. It could be for a triathlon, a swim holiday, snorkeling, or being more comfortable swimming recreationally or for personal safety while boating.
I’d like to encourage you to take these winter and early spring weeks to do the work that can most easily be done in the pool – building up your fundamental skills and building your swimming fitness base. You can do a lot to get ready for easier open water swimming by etching improved movement patterns more deeply into your neuromuscular system and building strength around those skills in the pool where conditions are calm and completely controlled and it is much easier to pay attention and maintain your better movement intentions.
I say this because there are skills and mindsets that can only be developed while actually in open water, such as cold comfort, navigation, wetsuit comfort, staying calm in wild water, breathing and staying smooth in choppy water, etc. By putting in the hundreds of mindful laps in the pool to get those fundamental skills more autonomously controlled by your brain you will free up attention and conscious control circuits to work on open water skills. Remember that your brain will be more concerned with so much more than your swimming once you plunge into a wild water environment and that alone will challenge your already established skills. Having stroke and breathing skills you can count on without thinking much about them will be a great help to your sense of confidence. You’ll find those strengths you developed in the pool challenged even more just by doing them in the relatively vast, cooler, and less stable wild water environment.
If possible, I recommend looking ahead to schedule some practice in open water with increasing frequency. It will be good for your nervous system to immerse even in small doses as the spring warms into summer. And, I recommend that you don’t treat these as ‘workouts’ but as times to explore and acclimate your body and mind. You’ll be far more prepared when it’s time for your event or main aquatic activities.
Your Guide To A Better Open Water Swim
If you are new to open water or know it could be a lot better for you, I invite you to pick up a copy of my book Your Guide To A Better Open Water Swim, written specifically for those of you who need a guide to all the things you should consider in preparing yourself for better open water swimming experiences this summer.
If you would like a German translation of this book, let me know. My swimmer friend Werner Goldbaum has created a full translation (with all images) for his own use and is glad to share it with you.
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